This image provided by Bokashi Living shows kitchen scraps being
added to a bokashi composting bucket. (bokashiliving.com
From The Asian Reporter, V32, #12 (December 5, 2022), pages 7
Got a bucket? Speed up the composting process with
By Jessica Damiano
The Associated Press
Itís no secret that the key to healthy plants is healthy soil, and
the best way to improve soil is by incorporating compost, which can take
up to a year to make.
Bokashi is a composting method that can speed that up. It uses an
inoculant developed in Japan in the 1980s containing beneficial
Compost improves the drainage of heavy clay soil and enhances the
water retention of sand. It exudes nutrients and microbes to nourish
plants and increase their vigor, while decreasing or eliminating the
need for conventional fertilizer.
Homemade compost, always a worthwhile endeavor, requires time and
patience. Ingredients must be tossed or turned periodically to expose
all parts to the oxygen necessary for their aerobic ó or oxygen-fuelled
Bokashi composting degrades ingredients anaerobically, replacing the
function of oxygen with fermentation, which essentially pickles them.
This cuts the wait time to as little as 10 days, and creates a product
thatís even higher in nutrients than traditional compost.
It can be done in a small, indoor space, and the only equipment
needed is a 5-gallon bucket with a spout and tight-fitting lid, and a
bag of inoculant to kick start the fermentation process. Bokashi
inoculants typically contain wheat bran, wheat germ, or sawdust. You can
buy a kit or research DIY options to get started.
Add kitchen scraps to the bucket in 2-inch layers, sprinkling a small
handful of inoculant over each layer as you go and resealing the bucket
tightly between additions. You might cover the layers with a plate or
plastic wrap before sealing the container to further reduce oxygen
When the bucket is full, drain the produced liquid from the spout
every couple of days. Dilute one teaspoon of that "compost tea" into a
quart of water and apply the highly nutritious solution to garden or
houseplant soil to increase plant vigor and yield. Avoid direct contact
with foliage, and use each batch within a day or so of collecting it.
Meat and dairy scraps ó strictly no-noís in a regular compost pile ó
can be incorporated into the bokashi bucket.
Unlike conventional compost piles, which donít heat up sufficiently
to kill harmful bacteria and parasites, the effective microorganisms in
the bokashi bucket will destroy any pathogens present in the animal
Ingredients should be added quickly and sporadically to avoid
introducing too much oxygen to the bucket. Likewise, you should avoid
the temptation to check on its progress between additions.
The sealed bucket should not emit any odors into the room, but you
may notice a sweet-and-sour scent when the lid is opened. This is
normal. A foul odor, however, signals that something has gone awry. If
you detect a rotting-egg odor or if dark mold is visible within the
bucket (white mold is OK), try adding more inoculant. If the situation
isnít remedied within a couple of days, discard the batch, clean and
disinfect the bucket, and start over.
When the fermentation process is complete ó again, in as little as 10
days ó the resulting biomass will still resemble the original
ingredients, but will decompose quickly. It can be buried in trenches in
a new garden bed at least two weeks before planting. Be sure to cover it
completely with soil.
You can also add it to the center of a traditional or worm composting
bin or pile (mixed well with the existing contents), where it will break
If the notion of creating "pre-compost" only to add it to a
conventional compost pile seems pointless, consider that incorporating
bokashi-decomposed ingredients will save many months, essentially
providing a fast track to finished compost.
If you donít have a conventional compost pile, you can finish your
bokashi compost by digging a hole and burying batches in a dedicated
spot in the garden. After two weeks, you can dig up what you need and
use it as you would regular compost.
Another option: Bokashi can be dug into trenches alongside but safely
away from plants. Take care to avoid direct contact with roots, as the
acidity of the fermented product will burn them. For the same reason, it
should not be applied as a top dressing or used as mulch unless it has
been further composted using traditional methods.
Jessica Damiano writes regular gardening columns for The Associated
Press. She publishes the award-winning Weekly Dirt Newsletter.
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